Mind the Gap: Towards the Integration of Critical Gerontology in Public Library Praxis
Aging populations challenge public libraries to adapt their materials, services and programming to maximize the wellbeing and functional capacity of older adults and enhance their social participation and security. For older adult patrons using public library spaces and services, the capacity to which the public library has been able to deliver on these qualities remains unclear. In the past, libraries and library staff have been critiqued for narrowly interpreting the needs of older adults, concentrating on aging as a loss or deficit. To understand the current state of Canadian urban public library services for older adults, publically accessible texts, documents and reports made available on five public library systems' websites were analyzed. This analysis uncovered certain gaps in adherence to key guidelines in the Canadian Library Association's Guidelines on Library and Information Services for Older Adults and revealed a lack of integration of older adults' own ideas and feedback for their programs and events. The incorporation of a critical gerontology approach throughout the analysis begins to elucidate this study's findings and calls for the questioning of current conceptualizations of older adults and the library services created for them. Public libraries are uniquely poised to engage with older adults and the addition of a critical gerontology lens in library practice and research will aid in the refocusing of resources and policies to more responsively support older adults' evolving needs.
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